The latest trailer for Pokemon Sword and Shield featured quite the surprise for veteran players as it revealed that each version of the upcoming Nintendo Switch role-playing game would have version-exclusive gyms. This is a major departure from the way that the two versions have worked in the past as each version used to only hold a handful of monsters hostage. This is effectively opening the floodgates for more changes between the two games as the Pokemon Sword and Shield version differences make it easier to buy both like never before.
It isn’t yet known how many gyms will be version-specific but we do know that they will feature totally different gyms and Pokemon types. In Pokemon Sword, the bow-wearing Bea will use fighting pocket monsters in her battles with the player. Meanwhile, Pokemon Shield players will face off against Allister, who looks straight out of a horror film, and all of his ghost Pokemon. One would think that there would be a few of these differences to really underline that each version is unique.
Gym battles are some of the most iconic sequences in Pokemon titles, so for each version to feature some exclusive ones is a big deal. After all, these are more than just a couple Pokemon battles strung together. Each gym leader has their own story to tell, such as Lt. Surge dealing with life after war, and many feature puzzles for the player to solve before they can test the skills of their pocket monsters.
It’s also important to note that this isn’t the first time that the story in Pokemon has differed slightly depending on what version you played. In both Ruby and Sapphire, the villains (either Team Magma or Team Aqua) would change depending on what version you were playing. Likewise, Black and White had a similar change with the final gym leader being swapped although the rest of the gym was still the same and each used dragon Pokemon. You’d also learn more about that version’s legendary Pokemon since that was the one you got to interact, but these changes are all pretty minor in the grand scheme of things; just palette swaps and switching enemies in and out rather than having an exclusive section to the game. Anyone who truly wants to experience all of what the new region has to offer will have to pick up both titles now and that’s a bigger deal.
Pokemon Sword and Shield version differences have pros and cons
For better or worse, Pokemon having two separate versions is integral to the series’ DNA at this point. Game Freak has stopped doing a third slightly altered version (think Yellow and Crystal), but it is unrealistic to think that it will ever go to just one release per year. There is too much money to be made since they know that plenty of fans will buy both. Version-specific Pokemon also make the game a much more social experience as players have to trade with others to collect them all.
The obvious positive is that there are now more reasons for players to pick up both Pokemon Sword and Shield. This exclusive content can be exactly what was needed to push someone that was on the edge into buying both instead of just one. These sort of extra sales will make the decision a wise one from a financial standpoint. Since each title will feature the same number of gym leaders (eight as it has always been), it’s not like the games will feel lessened by the removal, either.
However, these extra sales do come with a drawback and that is the fact that both games are now required to see all of the Galar region’s gym leaders. There has already been some pushback online from fans upset about the change, and these hardcore players were already upset over not all of the past Pokemon returning here. The positives outweigh the negatives, but Pokemon doesn’t generally have such a negative stigma surrounding its fanbase, so it will be interesting to see if the games will suffer due to less word of mouth. Of course, it’s also possible that these pre-launch complaints will be null once people actually have the games in their hands and are enjoying them.
Game Freak is counting on players to buy both Pokemon Sword and Shield
The end game with this move is quite obvious as Game Freak and Nintendo want to make more players to pick up each version more than never before. Like many people on social media, the “fear of missing out” is a very real issues with players. Those that only pick up one version won’t have all of the gym leaders, and do they really want to not experience that? They are playing on players’ own insecurities to boost their sales and while it may seem like a questionable thing to do from a moral standpoint, it’s a smart business move. The move from handhelds to consoles also means that players are making two $59.99 purchases rather than $39.99 ones, as well.
The company is also selling double packs that feature both of the versions together. This isn’t an entirely new concept, as they have done so in the past, but it wasn’t done with Pokemon: Let’s Go Pikachu and Eevee. Hilariously, it’s actually a worse deal than buying the two games separately as it costs one cent more but the convenience of picking up one item rather than two will probably outweigh the negligible expense.
While it isn’t a good thing for the wallets of Nintendo Switch owners, the idea of these drastic changes makes the Pokemon Sword and Shield version differences more attractive to more people when compared to prior games. These additional gyms are significant and will be paired with the version-exclusive pocket monsters that players have become accustomed to. Slowly, but surely, Game Freak is making it so that buying one version isn’t enough for anyone that wants the full experience. And finally, the studio has given players a better reason than just Magmar or Electabuzz.